Skull found near Lake Tahoe identified after nearly four decades

Nurse Donna Lass went missing at the age of 25 in 1971.

For four decades human remains that were found near Lake Tahoe were unidentified. 

Last week investigators finally identified the remains as missing nurse Donna Lass. 


The backstory: Lass was reported as a missing person from the South Lake Tahoe Police Department in 1971, but the investigative leads were exhausted. 

  • Fifteen years later the Placer County Sheriff’s Office found an unidentified skull off of Highway 20 near Interstate 80. 
  • The sheriff’s office preserved the skull pending further advancements in forensic technology. 

Driving the news: The sheriff’s office recently started a cold case team, which sent the skull to the California Department of Justice to use DNA technology to identify it. 

  • That resulted in a match with DNA of a member of Lass’s family, which was obtained by South Lake Tahoe Police as part of the missing persons case. 

What they’re saying: “Last week, South Lake Tahoe PD was able to notify Donna Lass’ surviving family members that she had been located,” the sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook. “We are extremely grateful that this team effort was able to bring closure to the Lass family and are hopeful that cold case detectives can continue to make advances in these cases. South Lake Tahoe PD will be continuing to look into any future leads on this case. Persons with information related to this development are encouraged to contact the SLTPD Detective Division at”

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